Friends, family, strangers on the internet, here is the question and answer session that no one asked for, but perhaps secretly wanted. Over the past few months as I have shared my news with the people in my life, I have inevitably been asked a multitude of questions. Some are fair enough, wondering about my future goals following the program and how I became interested in my topic of study. Others are a bit odd, inquiring whether or not I picked the University of St Andrews because of Kate Middleton or if I plan to take up golf on St Andrews infamous course. And then, some questions are just downright strange, suggesting that I somehow have the ability to see into the future.
While I am more than happy to answer these questions, as I have mentioned before that I am happy to talk about my future goals, I thought it would be useful, and perhaps entertaining, to list out as many as I could remember and answer them here for everyone to be able to reference and enjoy.
Q: Where are you going to graduate school?
A: I am going to the University of St Andrews in Scotland.
Q: What are you going to study?
A: I am getting a Masters of Letters in International Security Studies.
Q: What is International Security?
A: International Security refers to the various measures taken by states and/or international organizations to ensure mutual safety and survival. Measures can include military action and/or diplomatic treaties. It is invariably linked to national security, and is national or state security in the global arena. What is security and what it means to be secure is a contested and evolving topic in the field. Traditionally it means pure survival, but it includes more elements in modern discussions such as individual human rights. Threats to security can be war and terrorism, but also gender discrimination, poverty, and global warming. I am particularly interested in the security of civilians during wars and other conflicts, an area called human security. I plan to focus my studies on areas of diplomacy, peace-building, and conflict resolution.
Q: Why are you going to Scotland? Aren’t there places in the United States that you could study that?
A: Yes, I could have gone to any number of American institutions. However, I wanted to go to graduate school abroad. I am studying a subfield of International Relations, so it made sense to study in another country to get an international perspective on the issues. Not to mention, Scotland is a beautiful, magical place. I fell in love with it in 2015 and I have wanted to go back since.
Q: Is it expensive to study in Scotland?
A: It depends. Unlike doctoral programs, masters programs typically do not provide funding, only scholarships like those for undergraduate programs. Tuition for masters programs I considered in the United States range from $20,000 to $60,000 per year for two years, making the total tuition cost range from $40,000 to $120,000. International student tuition for masters programs in Scotland, however, range from $25,000 to $30,000 per year for one year, depending on the exchange rate. Even when factoring in the cost of flights and visas, getting a masters degree in Scotland is more cost effective.
Q: How are you paying for this?
A: That is quite a personal question… Over the past two years, I have saved. I made budgets, commuted to work, and cut frivolous spending. I saved about $30,000 to cover my visa fees, housing, and other living expenses. I also received a generous grant from the Bank of Mom and Dad, which I will begin repaying once I graduate.
Q: You are so lucky to have parents who will do that for you!
A: Yes, I am very lucky. I think about that all the time.
Q: I thought you wanted to go to the London School of Economics?
A: Originally I did. However, much like a Pokemon, I evolved. You can read about my change of heart and how I realized that LSE was not the best fit school for me in a previous post.
Q: What are you planning on doing after graduate school? What kind of work can you do with your degree?
A: The world is my oyster. I have several ideas of what I would like to do, which include working for the government doing foreign policy work, working for an international organization doing development or humanitarian type work, working for a political think tank. Perhaps I will work for the International Rescue Committee, helping deliver essential supplies to refugees. Perhaps I will work for the State Department and prepare briefings for important policy meetings on the US Strategy in the Middle East. Only time will tell. I would also be perfectly happy to teach abroad, join the peace corps, or do any random job that allowed me to stay abroad. I am flexible to see where life takes me.
Q: Do you really need a masters to do the type of work you want to do?
A: Maybe, maybe not. But I firmly believe that you can never be over-educated. I am passionate about my field of study, and I would pursue further education in it regardless of future professional opportunities. I am doing this degree because I want to and because it makes me happy.
Q: Are you going to work for the government?
A: I don’t know, maybe. I am not opposed to it. One day, I would like to be the Secretary of State. However, I might change my mind. There is no way to see the future.
Q: We need people like you in the government.
A: This isn’t a question, but thank you.
Q: You should run for office.
A: Again, this isn’t a question. But, again, thank you. I am glad I have your vote. Myriah Smith 2020.
Q: Why aren’t you going to law school?
A: Why aren’t YOU going to law school? I’m not going to law school because, as of this moment, I do not want to. I used to want to go to law school, but I changed my mind. Is that okay with you? Perhaps one day I will still go. Why not! Is that okay with you?
Q: Are you going to do a PhD afterwards?
A: I don’t know. It is something I am very interested in doing and it is definitely in the realm of possibilities. My two favorite things are researching things I am interested in and talking to them about people who will listen to me, so getting a PhD and becoming a professor would be a dream job. But, who knows what the future holds. My focus is to become Master Smith before considering becoming Doctor Smith.
Q: Where is St Andrews?
A: St Andrews is a small town on the Fife coast in Scotland. It is about an hour North of Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city.
Q: Why did you pick the University of St Andrews?
A: I picked the University of St Andrews for all the right reasons, and you can read about that here. In short, the university is one of the best in the world for studying International Relations, I love the program it offered, and the university atmosphere seemed like everything I could want out of my experience.
Q: Are you going there because of Kate Middleton?
A: As I have already discussed in a previous post, no. However, I will not lie, it definitely made the decision to go there more attractive.
Q: You’re going there to try and find a Prince to marry.
A: You caught me. This is just step one in an elaborate plan to marry into the British royal family. There are several princes who are eligible bachelors, and I plan on finding them.
Q: You will meet your husband out there.
A: Really? Do you know him? Who is he? Where will I meet him? Why is he out there? Why hasn’t he called me yet?
Q: Are you going to take up golf?
A: I don’t know. Are you? This is a stupid question, please stop asking me this question. I have tried golf before and I don’t like it. I am most likely not going to take up golf.
Q: Is the food good out there?
A: Yes, the food is delicious. Hopefully it will stay that way and the food shortages Brexit is threatening will not change anything.
Q: Are you going to eat [insert stereotypical British food here]?
A: Yes, I am going to eat everything. My stomach is not ready.
Q: Where are you living out there?
A: I am staying in student accommodation, where I will live in a two bedroom flat in the center of town with one roommate. My apartment building looks like a castle, and I am so pumped.
Q: Is it expensive to live there?
A: Compared to the housing market in the San Francisco Bay Area, no. It is much more affordable. However, apparently St Andrews is expensive for Scottish standards.
Q: It is so cold there!
A: This is not a question. Yes, it gets cold. However, not as cold as people might think. The lowest temperature in winter are the low 30s. It can get just as cold in Northern California. I am not going to the arctic.
Q: Are Scottish people nice?
A: Yes, Scottish people are super nice. They do not share the stereotype of their English brethren.
Q: Can you understand Scottish people?
A: For the most part, yes. What else would you expect from someone who grew up with family members who had accents?
Q: How long is your program?
A: My program is a little over one year long. Masters programs in the United Kingdom are typically one year, opposed to the two years in the United States, because they are much more specialized and have more independent study.
Q: Are you coming back home at all during the program?
A: No, because flights are expensive.
Q: Well, after the program when you are back…
A: I might not come back. Please stop assuming I am coming back, and especially back to [insert home town here]. I got big plans, baby!
Q: Are you going to stay living out there?
A: Honestly, if I can then I will. If I have the opportunity to stay living and working abroad, then why not? I might stay in Scotland, pop over to Ireland, or down to Germany. I might even stay abroad, but go to South Korea or somewhere in Africa. The opportunities are endless.
Q: Can I come and visit you?
Q: Are you going to travel to [insert country here] while abroad?
A: I want to travel to as many places as I can, but I do have a list of countries that I personally would like to travel to. The country you want me to go to may not be on there. Do not take it personally.
Q: Have you seen Braveheart?
A: No, but I plan on watching it ASAP.
Q: Have you seen Outlander?
A: Yes, and I am obsessed. This show has helped me to understand Scottish accents.
Q: Are you excited?
A: No. …Of course I am excited. I am hysterically excited. Why would you even ask that?
Q: But, Brexit!?!
A: But, Trump!
Q: Your mom is going to miss you.
A: Yes, I know.
Q: Are you going to miss your mom?
A: Of course, I am not a monster. Why is this even a question?
So there you have it, all the most frequently asked questions that I could think of. Some were legitimate, others were trivial, and a few were downright odd. Nevertheless, I am always happy to talk to anyone about my upcoming plans. I am hysterically excited for this next adventure and so happy and grateful that so many people in my life are interested in learning more about it. If you have any others, please feel free to leave a comment down below. I hope this was helpful or, at the very least, entertaining.
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